Ocean City has spent years branding itself as a family resort, and it shows. The town now offers dozens of family friendly events and activities each year, many of which are free and occur throughout the season.
No matter the budget, location or your family’s interests, you’ll find activities for the perfect vacation within your budget.
Here are our top ten summer events and attractions in Ocean City, Maryland:
10. Go to a Park
Distance from Princess Royale: varies
Ocean City features several free parks, including the Ocean Bowl Skate Park, with amenities for skateboarders and in-line skaters, on Third Street, bayside.
Northside Park, on 125th Street, bayside, is a massive, 58-acre complex with a large playground, athletic fields, a fishing lagoon, walking and jogging paths, a picnic area, and more. It’s Ocean City’s largest and most popular park, and it’s a short 2 miles from the Princess Royale.
For younger children, visit Robin Park (28th Street, bayside), which also includes a picnic area and a more intimate, neighborhood-style playground and atmosphere.
9. Soak in the Arts
Distance from hotel: 0.3 miles to the Art League of Ocean City; 2.9 miles to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center
The nonprofit Art League of Ocean City, on 94th Street, bayside, hosts regular fine art exhibitions, as well as classes, workshops, lectures and performing arts shows.
For national and regional entertainment, the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, on 4001 Coastal Highway, and the new, attached Ocean City Performing Arts Center, host everything from large commercial trade shows, to live music and world-class theater performances.
8. Amuse Yourself
Distance from hotel: varies
Ocean City is home to several amusement park-type attractions, including the massive Jolly Roger, which includes rides, go-carts and a water park, at 2901 Coastal Highway, bayside, and Frontier Town Amusements, which also includes a waterpark and other fun family activities, at 8428 Stephen Decatur Highway.
On a slightly smaller scale, the resort boasts a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! park at 401 South Atlantic Avenue on the Boardwalk, as well as the vintage arcade Marty’s Playland, located at 5 Worcester Street on the Boardwalk.
For go-cart action, two West Ocean City hotspots offer several tracks of racing action, geared toward varying age and skill levels. Strap in at Grand Prix Amusements, at 12424 Ocean Gateway, and Baja Amusements, at 12639 Ocean Gateway.
7. Free Town Events
Distance from hotel: varies
The town of Ocean City sponsors free, family-friendly events throughout the summer. On Wednesdays from June 1 through Aug. 31, Movies at the Beach offers free screenings outside the Carousel Hotel on 118th Street, at 8:30 p.m. The town also sponsors Movies at the Beach on Mondays and Fridays, from June 20 through Aug. 5, at the 27th Street Beach at 8:30 p.m.
The free laser-lights spectacle OC Beach Lights runs Sundays, May 29 through Sept. 4, from 9:30-10:30 p.m., along the Boardwalk. Family Beach Olympics occur on Tuesdays, June 21 through Aug. 2, at the 27th Street beach from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Concerts on the Beach rock out on Wednesdays, July 13 to Aug. 31, on the Boardwalk at North Division Street, 8-9:30 p.m. Free concerts are also held during Sunset Park Party Nights, Thursdays from July 7 to Aug. 25, 7-9 p.m.
Ice cream aficionados should enjoy Sundaes in the Park – with a free concert and fireworks display – at Northside Park on 125th Street, from July 10 to Sept. 4, starting at 7 p.m. Fireworks launch at 9 p.m.
6. Visit Assateague Island
Distance from hotel: 15.2 miles from the Princess Royale
The wild ponies of Assateague are iconic in the area. But the beaches also offer a – generally – quieter take on surf and sand than busy, bustling Ocean City. Oceanside and bayside beaches are accessible, for a small fee, for a day trip. The state park also offers overnight camping, which are both kid and pet-friendly.
For smaller children in particular, the bayside beaches boast a unique experience, with calmer waters averaging about two feet deep, which stretch for more than 100 yards. Just remember – don’t feed or pet the ponies!
5. Catch the Fireworks
Distance from hotel: 2 miles from the Princess Royale to Northside Park; 5.6 miles from to North Division Street
The only thing more spectacular than the dual fireworks displays on July 4 in Ocean City, are the massive number of families who annually flock to there to watch them from two locations: at Northside Park on 125th Street, and from the North Division Street Beach, near the inlet. Both events offer a free concert starting at 8 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
If you can’t make it into the city during the holiday, free fireworks displays are offered on Mondays and Tuesdays from July 11 through September 3, starting at the North Division Street beach and visible along the Boardwalk. A special Labor Day weekend fireworks show will also launch Sept. 3 at Division Street.
4. Watch a Parade
Distance from hotel: 4.5 miles from the Princess Royale, to 15th Street
Along with hosting the state’s second largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, in March, the resort also features a pair of June parades for summer vacationers.
For football fans, the annual Ravens Roost Parade, running down Baltimore Avenue from 19th to 26th Street, brings 50 member “Roosts” from three states to the beach, June 4 at 10 a.m. Baltimore Ravens players, cheerleaders and the mascot, Poe, make regular appearances as part of the two-hour parade.
On June 22, the annual Maryland State Fireman’s Association will roll dozens of floats and firetrucks from stations across the state down Baltimore Avenue, from 15th Street to 32nd Street. The parade generally runs about three hours. Spectators are encouraged to bring blankets or beach chairs.
3. The OC Air Show
Distance from hotel: 3.5 miles to 16th Street
One of the biggest spectacles of the summer, the two-day OC Air Show, June 18-19, features dazzling displays by military jets over the beach, including headliners, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds’ flight demonstration team includes six F-16 pilots, performing dozens of stunning aerial maneuvers.
The show can be seen, for free, from a viewing area on the beach at 16th Street and in the surrounding area. Premium seating and VIP passes are also available for a fee.
2. White Marlin Open
Distance from hotel: 2 miles
The 43rd Annual White Marlin Open returns to the resort Aug. 8-12. This year, the world’s largest billfish tournament expects to give out more than $3 million in prize money. Last year, the largest marlin netted a $1.18 million payout.
The event is free to watch, as more than 300 fishing boats from across the country bring their catches to the scales, at the Harbour Island Marina on 14th Street and the bay, each day from 4-9 p.m. Parking can be tricky, so arrive early, and bring folding chairs or a blanket.
Coolers are not allowed inside the event, but food and drink vendors, selling everything from hamburgers to grilled tuna sandwiches, are readily available.
1. Go to the Beach
Distance from hotel: varies
Number one is a no-brainer. What better summer activity is there than a literal day at the world-famous Ocean City, Maryland beach? Especially when you’re staying in a beachfront hotel, it makes for a convenient place to bring the family.
Ocean City beaches stretch from the inlet, more than 10 miles, all the way through 145th Street to the Maryland-Delaware boarder. All beaches at the resort are free and open to the public, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. Go surfing or body boarding, build a sand castle, or just soak up some rays on one of America’s most-popular beaches.
Handicapped access is available at Inlet beach, as well as at several other locations, and the town provides beach wheel chairs, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Inlet lot and at 7th, 30th, 40th, 48th, 59th, 70th, 81st, 89th, 94th, 107th, 120th, 130th, 139th and 145th streets.
It’s easy to plan your vacation with lots of free or cheap activities, or take the family for a big day out. Whatever you’re looking for, your family will enjoy your vacation when so many options are available.